Academic journal article IUP Journal of Brand Management

Identity of Organizations: An Analytical Model

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Brand Management

Identity of Organizations: An Analytical Model

Article excerpt


While the academic focus on identity in organizations has gained momentum, it has also increased in complexity. On the one hand, there are in-depth discussions as to:

* What is identity, viewed from a range of academic disciplines (Hirsch, 1982; Albert and Whetten, 1985; Fearon, 1999; Stryker and Burke, 2000; and Weinreich and Saunderson, 2003);

* Who needs identity (Hall, 2000);

* How identity relates to constructs such as brand reputation and image (Abimbola, 2009; and Kenny et al., 2011);

* The differing paradigmatic assumptions underlying the study of identity (Gioia, 1998); and

* Whether identity is a construct, question or metaphor (Albert, 1998; and Puusa, 2006).

The other major approach has been to determine which identities characterize an organization, with an ever-increasing number being identified. At the same time, the breadth of some identities has been expanded to encompass a wider range of roles and images.

As organizations move towards a more holistic expression of themselves, there is increasing attention given to the way they are seen, which has in turn led to a greater complexity in how they are defined. The concept of corporate identity, for example, has grown from a relatively simple image of a business, as expressed through its mission, vision, structure, logo and uniform (its 'house style'), to, for example, a multifaceted model of 16 individual identities (Balmer, 2008). In addition to the corporate identity, considerable attention has been given to the organizational identity, introduced by Albert and Whetten (1985) and sometimes referred to as the internal identity. The product identity, particularly as it impacts upon the brand image, has attracted significant study from the marketing perspective, while more recently the employer identity has been linked to an integrated branding process encompassing the HR, marketing and communication functions (Ambler and Barrow, 1996; Lloyd, 2002; and Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004).

Balmer and Greyser (2002) attribute the growing interest among organizations in their identity to the increasing number of mergers, diversification, companies based on new technology and re-imaging by existing companies. Organizations realize that a strong identity can increase their profile in the marketplace, attract investment, build employee commitment and performance, as well as differentiate their products and services (Melewar and Karaosmanoglu, 2006).

With increasing emphasis on identity as it relates to organizations, there is a need to more fully understand this relationship. Fearon (1999) points out that identity is rarely explained, especially in social science writing, as people tend to assume that the reader knows what it means. Similarly, there are many publications which discuss identity as it relates to organizations without addressing what identity actually is. This study therefore aims to explore the concept of identity in order to present a framework which can guide its application to management theory.

In particular:

* How can the concept of identity be applied to organizations?

* What are the components of identity and its related influencing factors in organizations and their interrelationships?

* Can these components and relationships be encompassed into a model which enables analysis of the development, impact, effectiveness and perceptual quality of identity of organizations?

Initially, the study focuses on the key concept itself, to identify the components relevant for an identity model, and then draws upon a multidisciplinary base of findings in order to develop an understanding of the role of each in the nature of identity itself and its interrelationship with the internal and external environment of the organization. From this synthesis, the proposed conceptual model is presented in diagrammatic form. Its relationship to organizational practices is outlined in tabular form and linked to relevant management issues in the form of questions through which the form, function and efficacy of an organization's identity can be analyzed. …

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